After a day of worrying and worrying and asking other people to check my e-mail for me when I couldn't, we received word yesterday that everything in our dossier looks great, even the bit that endured a small bicycle/puddle accident, and it will be on its way to Washington D.C. today for authentication at the U.S. Department of State and the Ethiopian Embassy. This is the last step before we are put on the waiting list to receive a referral (for a baby! a real live very cute baby!) (people keep asking why Ethiopia, and we keep saying it's because the babies are the cutest) (which is not our real reason, but we are pretty certain that our baby will be the cutest baby you've ever seen in your life).
Between all the complaining and celebrating, complaining and celebrating, I don't think I've been very clear about what this process actually looks like, so I'll take a boring moment to list that out for you. Here is what it looks like for us. It might vary slightly depending on the agency you go through.
1. Decide to adopt.
2. Decide where you'd like to adopt from.
3. Research agencies that offer services to that country; send off for all sorts of info packets, some of which contain DVDs that you may or may not later make fun of at a party.
4. Choose an agency, and apply. (Write a check!)
5. Upon acceptance by agency, begin paper chase. (Write a check!)
6. Begin to gather together two sets of documents, one for your home study, one for the dossier.
7. Once home study documents are in order, go through the home study. For us, this included separate meetings for each of us with our social worker, a meeting together with the social worker, and a home visit by the social worker. (Write a check!)
8. Continue gathering documents for the dossier all the while, getting every single one notarized properly.
9. Once home study is written and approved, apply to USCIS using form I-600A. (Write a check!)
10. While waiting to receive notice of fingerprint appointments with USCIS, take the rest of your documents, which you finally have all together, to the Secretary of State's office to be state certified. (Take quarters for parking, even though it's a private lot just for the government building!)
11. Receive fingerprint appointment notice and be fingerprinted by USCIS to prove that you are not a criminal or a terrorist.
12. Maybe go back for another set of fingerprints if your first fingerprints couldn't be read. (Moisturize fingertips furiously between notification of rejection and new appointment.)
13. Receive I-171H in the mail.
14. Have it notarized.
15. Take it to be state certified.
16. Make copies of all the documents in the dossier for your files, then send the originals via FedEx to your agency. (Write the biggest check yet!)
17. Eat a cupcake to celebrate.
18. Fret about whether or not your documents will pass muster and be declared fine/good/great/acceptable.
19. Receive word that everything looks good.
20. Dossier is sent from agency to courier in Washington, D.C. The courier will hand deliver it to the U.S. Department of State and then the Ethiopian Embassy for authentication.
21. Dossier is returned to agency with all the necessary seals and stamps to make it official.
22. We are placed on the waiting list for a referral. From this point, it could be a year or it could be shorter, depending on who shows up at the six orphanages our agency works with. If a baby arrives at the orphanage with a special need, and we are the first people on the list that have approved that need, then that will be our daughter. If we rise to the top of the list before a special needs child comes in, then we will receive the next baby girl, special needs or not, that shows up. It's all fairly unpredictable, except for the part where we get a baby eventually.
23. The referral is presented to us, we review the information and go to the bank for a loan for the balance of what we haven't saved/fundraised/gotten via miracle.
24. We officially accept the referral. (Write an enormous check!)
25. We are assigned a court date.
26. Our power of attorney in Ethiopia appears in court on our behalf.
27. We pass court (which doesn't always happen on the first try), and Magnolia McBride is officially our baby.
28. We are assigned dates to travel to Ethiopia.
29. We travel to Ethiopia to bring home our daughter!
If you're thinking, "Wow, that's a lot of steps," you are right. But in the end? I've heard it's totally worth it.